We are still actively using our game closet on a daily basis around here. Never more so than in the summertime. The trick to maintaining this closet, I have found, is to keep rotating through the toys and activities. Even if the kids outgrow an activity from the closet, I still keep it in there. You never know when a set of wooden blocks will be needed for a superhero fortress, and we have used counting monkeys as armies, paper weights, dive toys, students in a classroom, and the list goes on. Old activities and games never get old. They just get repurposed. For example, I have had this box of magnetic letters and oil pan for a couple of years (letters from Melissa and Doug; oil pan from Walmart automotive section). It started because the kids just loved magnets. Then, we used them for letter recognition. Now, we are spelling with them. Same toy, different purposes.
Every summer, I replenish our game closet with a few new activities and games for the kids. We add to our supply depending on whatever interest the kids currently have. This summer, the big winner has been arts and crafts supplies. Gracie has turned out to be quite the writer. She loves to write and draw with markers, pencils, pens, crayons, or whatever she can get her hands on. And Michael has really gotten into arts and crafts that require a lot of handiwork and creativity. One of his favorite activities right now is Playdoh (always Playdoh) and even lacing beads.
Replenishing this summer has been, thankfully, a lot cheaper than when I first started the closet and I had to fill it with actual board games, puzzles, and a few larger ticket items, like those previously mentioned counting monkey ($30 for those suckers!). This summer, I went to the dollar store for arts and crafts supplies.
So, here’s what I found and what we’re planning to do with them:
Paint – I had planned to stop by Target to pick up paint and paintbrushes. I had no idea they were at the dollar store! Who knew?!?! These little sets came with brushes, too. Michael has really been into painting lately. It makes me cringe because Gracie, of course, wants to play, too, and that’s just really risky. But, it’s summer. Why not? I have a plastic tablecloth that I got last year at the dollar store that I use for painting and Playdoh. I spread it out over our kitchen table, put the kids in old t-shirts of Chris’s, and they go to town. The paint colors get mixed up and everything usually just turns gray, but they don’t care. It keeps them entertained for almost an hour some days. That’s a summer win in my book!
Notebooks and paper – I don’t know about you, but my kids LOVE blank paper. They are kind of over coloring books right now, and all they want is my computer paper. I love this, actually, because it requires so much more creativity than a coloring book does. But computer paper is not cheap! A few months ago, I bought the kids each a composition notebook. It was cheaper than computer paper and it solved the problem of all their single-page treasures being all over the house (because heaven forbid we throw something away). They loved their notebooks! And an unexpected bonus was that they were so easy to transport. We took them in the car, to restaurants, to the grocery store. It was pretty great. Also, it gave them somewhere to put all their stickers (instead of on my refrigerator…oy!). This time, I let them choose what kind of notebook they wanted from the dollar store. Bean chose an art pad and Gracie kept with the composition notebook. They have been hard at work filling them with paintings, drawing, letter writing, and stickers.
Markers – My kids love markers. Markers make my heart palpitate and my palms sweat. But, surprisingly, as much as I worry, they are actually pretty good with them. They have an art easel that my sister gave them for Christmas or something, and they are at the perfect age for that right now. But they are pretty rough on markers. Gracie doesn’t close them all the way all the time, and so they dry up constantly. But with dollar store prices, that’s not such a big deal anymore.
Pipe cleaners and beads – This was one of the new ideas for this summer. Gracie got a bracelet making kit for her birthday, and both kids have loved stringing the beads together. But the string can be tricky for Gracie. At the dollar store, I found little bags of beads and, instead of string, pipe cleaners. This has worked out even better because they can make more than just jewelry (which kind of bummed out Bean with the string). Now, they make crowns, Ninja Turtle masks, swords, and all kinds of things. This keeps them busy for a while, too. I dumped the beads into a gallon ziplock bag and threw the pipe cleaners in there, too, so it is completely self-serve for them. They can get the bag out (with permission) and can start all on their own. (Warning: Choking hazard with the beads. Choose bead sizes that are appropriate for your child’s age.)
Popsicle sticks – I picked up this pack of popsicle sticks, too. I keep seeing activities on Pinterest that they can be used for and I figured it never hurt to have craft sticks. So far, we’ve used them as chopsticks to pick up little pom pom balls. Great for working on fine-motor skills. I’m sure we’ll find more to do with them soon.
Craft baskets – Now, I’m a little nervous about this purchase. Especially for Gracie (always Gracie…). My mom gave each of them a desk for their bedrooms for their birthdays this year. They are beautiful and the perfect size for each of them. The idea was to get one for Bean so that he could have somewhere to work on homework when he starts school in the fall (HOMEWORK! GAHHH!). But Gracie has taken to drawing so much now that it seemed like she would actually use one more. So, they both got them. They each have a pencil cup on their desks and they keep their notebooks in their desk drawers. But, they really wanted markers at their desks so they could draw. I have gone back and forth on whether this is a good idea. Finally, I gave in and bought them each a little basket to keep a few art supplies on their desks in. Each basket holds their set of markers, a baggy of stamps I bought them for Easter from Oriental Trading, and any stickers they have. So far, it’s been good. Both of them know that if they draw on their desks or anywhere other than the paper, their art supplies go away. We’ll see how long that lasts…
So, those are our findings on the latest trip to the dollar store. My next mission is to start doing some of the activities I’ve pinned on Pinterest for the kids (click here for the link to my “kiddie ideas” board on Pinterest). I pinned all year for summer activities, and I can’t wait to start trying some of them!